Thursday, November 25, 2010

Irony

Just an ironic tidbit that I forgot to mention…

I was agonizing over my food plan for St. George a week or so back.  The word agonizing probably sounds a little dramatic, but it pretty well describes how I was feeling at the time. 

“No garlic mashed potatoes on my food plan…but I LOVE garlic mashed potatoes.  I WANT garlic mashed potatoes.  I have to use my scale at Texas Roadhouse?…but I don’t want to weigh my meat.  I want the whole 10 ounces. I don’t want restrictions.  I want to eat what ever I want whenever I want.”

That night I went to bed late.  I have a hard time going to sleep when Lynn is on the road, so I turned on the T.V., set the sleep timer and laid my head down on the pillow in the hopes of drifting off to sleep quickly.  I have absolutely no idea what show was on but it basically was a reality show that trailed the lives of three extremely obese people—people in the 400-600 lb. range.  It showed all the struggles they were going through trying to live a normal life at that size.  One needed to have a specially built wheel chair to accommodate him.  He had to have specially made clothes to fit.  One was having fertility problems as a direct result of her weight, etc. etc. etc.  Their lives were so complicated and difficult just because of their weight.

As I watched the show I sat up in bed and felt like screaming, “you don’t have to suffer like that.  There is an answer!  There is a solution!  There is a program that can totally change your life and help you find recovery.  And the program is SOOOOO much easier than the pain and suffering you are going through now.  If you only knew how simple it is!”

Then the irony hit me.  I was so anxious to share the solution with those strangers on T.V.  I had the solution that would change their life. So, why the heck was I so resistant to accept the solution myself? 

How obese do you have to get before the problem is more painful than the cure?  How much craziness and mental obsession do you have to go through before it is easier to just let go and work the program?  Why is it so easy to see the solution for other people and so difficult to recognize it for yourself? 

Hum.  Human nature?  Self-deception?  
For today, I want to remember and be grateful for the solution. 

Pretend It Is Still Monday

This is Monday morning’s blog that isn’t being posted until Thursday.  I had to board the plane before I could hit “post”.  Oh Well.

Wow….it’s Monday morning.  I am sitting at the airport waiting for my plane to board and feeling really good about the fact that I made it here—early, no less!  Of course, last night was seriously short in terms of the required number of hours of sleep my body requires, but that is a small price to pay in light of the fact that last week I just couldn’t see how I would even make it through the week.

All things considered, things went extra ordinarily smoothly.  A lot of that was in direct relationship to a paradigm shift I consciously tried to make.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, I recognized that the things I had to do didn’t fit into the available time slots and as a result, my predictable M.O. started to kick in.  Panic.  Turn the adrenaline up.  Shift into hyper-drive.  Work like a maniac.  Focus so hard on the have-to-do’s that I don’t even take a breath to enjoy life.  So this last week I committed to take a different approach and tackle the week’s task with sanity, an eye on reality and at least a little willingness to ask what my “higher power” wanted me to do rather than fixating on what I felt I needed to do. 

In the process of taking this new approach, I realized that whole syndrome stems from yet another addiction I have—I am addicted to control—more specifically, to me being in control.  I don’t like to feel vulnerable, let alone incompetent or inadequate.  If there is a task to accomplish, regardless of the magnitude or practicality, I will conquer it. It there is a problem I will solve it.  If there is a hurdle, I will jump it.  I don’t like uncertainly or unpredictability. I don’t ever want to fall victim to something that I could have or should have seen coming and prevented.  There is an element of perfectionism in it.   

These traits are actually fairly useful most of the time.  However, occasionally (okay, constantly) it causes a level of insanity and stress that are just plain not healthy.  So, why am I that way?  Good questions.  I don’t have the answer, but I do have a few thoughts that have been jogging around in my head.

All those character traits stem from pride—the self-sufficient kind of pride that says I am all-competent: I can do anything.  I am all-wise: I know exactly what actually needs to be done at any given point in time.  In the process of spending so much energy trying to run the world I have a very hard time letting go of things and focusing on the narrow arena of things that are really mine to manage.  A classic case of pride.

I think that a lot of my success this last week stems from the fact that I actually remembered that in many ways I was powerless and my life was unmanageable—at least unmanageable in the way I wanted to manage it.  I was a little more willing to (not meaning to throw in all the OA clich├ęs…) “let go and let God”.  Hum.  That sounds like the opposite of pride. And interestingly enough, it actually worked. 

Now, if I can just remember that…for today.
  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Remembrance and Gratitude

My sponsor referred to a statement someone made on a “coffee shop” meeting recently where she said that there are [“x” number] of things that happen before we take the bite.  I was intrigued by that and decided that in my blog I would try to identify all the different things that happened—especially in my mind—before I actually took the bite during my relapse.  Before I could even start the list, one particular thing jumped out at me as being of such monumental importance that everything seemed inconsequential.  What did I do before I relapsed? 


I forgot. 

No, I don’t mean I forgot what I did.  I mean I forgot.  I forgot where I had come from and how much freedom I had gained.  In the process of forgetting that, I forgot to be grateful.  As soon as gratitude began to slip away, longing, discontent and resentment started to slip in and goodbye recovery.

Remember the story of Orderville that Henry B. Eyring shared in his talk, “Remembrance and Gratitude”?    Well, it’s too long to copy in here, so I will take the liberty of chopping it to smithereens  (which of course you can only get away with in a blog) and I will give you the thirty second version of his 20 minute remarks:

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“The population [of Orderville] rose to seven hundred people. One hundred and fifty of them gave Orderville a special advantage: they had come from the mission on the Muddy River, where they had nearly starved…

“They didn’t have much, but their poverty may have been their greatest contribution. Their having almost nothing provided a basis for future comparison that might have guaranteed gratitude: any food or clothing or housing that came to them would be treasure compared to their privation on the Muddy mission.

“But time passed, the railroad came, and a mining boom put cash in the hands of people in the neighboring towns. They could buy imported clothes, and they did. The people [of Orderville] were living better than they had in years, but the memory had faded. They now focused on what was in the next town and [on what they were missing].

“There were many challenges Orderville faced in the ten years they lived there. One of them they never really conquered. It was the problem of not remembering. That is a problem we must solve, too.

"…we so easily forget that we came into life with nothing. Whatever we get soon seems our natural right, not a gift. And we forget the giver. Then our gaze shifts from what we have been given to what we don’t have….”

Later in the talk he goes on to counsel:

...“ ‘Thank the Lord thy God in all things.’  You could begin a private prayer with thanks. You could start to count your blessings, and then pause for a moment…. you will find that memories of other blessings will flood into your mind. If you begin to express gratitude for each of them, your prayer may take a little longer than usual. Remembrance will come. And so will gratitude.

“As you start to write, you could ask yourself, “How did God bless me today?” If you do that long enough and with faith, you will find yourself remembering blessings. And sometimes, you will have gifts brought to your mind which you failed to notice during the day, but which you will then know were a touch of God’s hand in your life.

Remembrance is the seed of gratitude….remember and be grateful.”
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So my mental list is focusing on remembering where I came from when I was in my own “Muddy”—before I experienced recovery.  Let’s see:

I was miserable.
I weighed 326 pounds and wore a size 30.
I couldn’t buy clothes that fit.
The clothes I did manage to find looked terrible.
I was self-conscience and insecure.
I didn’t want to meet new people or be put in uncomfortable social situations.
I was physically limited in what I could do.
I had weight-related health problems.
I was constantly worried about whether I would “fit”—in an airplane, in a car, in a chair.
I felt defeated, hopeless, anxious and unhappy.

Then I found 90-day OA and was healed of all those afflictions.

I was happy.  I lost 180 pounds and reached my goal weight.  I could walk into any store and pick a size 8 up off the rack and know it would fit.  I loved my yummy food and ate tons of it exactly three times a day. I was confident and secure.  I had virtually no physical limitations.  I felt mentally and spiritually free. 

When I first went to OA meetings I would hear the phrase:  “happy, joyous and free”.  That’s how I felt.  I felt gratitude.  The miracle was obvious and it was amazing.  How could that have happened to me?  To someone who had felt so trapped and so helpless for so long?

But then I started to forget.  I forgot what it had been like in those dark days before OA.  As I forgot, I also forgot to be grateful.  And so the seeds of discontent started slipping in.

But why do I always have to use my scale?  Normal people don’t.
Why can’t I have pasta or a dinner roll just this once?
If 4 ounces is enough, I’m sure six is even better.
It’s not fair that I don’t get ice cream….I’ll just make sure it is sugar-free.

The disease reactivated and the weight began to slip on. I didn’t want it to.  It just happened.  And I thought, “but it really isn’t fair.  I shouldn’t have to do all that stuff I had to do on 90-day OA.  I don’t want to go back to all those terrible restrictions.  I just can’t make myself do it.”

Why am I back in recovery right now?  Simple.  Life got hard enough that I began to remember.  I remember what it used to be like, what happened and what it was like now.  I remembered all the positives—all the blessings.

I think I’ve discovered one of the secrets to recovery.  Few people persist in doing something that is miserable, unhappy and restrictive.  As long as 90-day OA is just that—a set of restrictions designed to make us miserable--there is not much hope that we will embrace it any longer than we have to in order to take a few pounds off.  Certainly not long enough to make recovery a way of life. On the other hand, if the 90-day program is just one big basket of blessings in our life for which we are very grateful, following the program becomes a matter of joy.

And so, I remember, and I am grateful:

o        That I am blessed with so much healthy, wonderful, tasty, food.
o        That I live in such abundance and have as much as I need to eat.
o        That I have a scale that helps me make sure I eat enough food.
o        That I have the physical health and mental clarity that comes from detoxifying that flour and sugar out of my body.
o        That I have a plan I can count on to get me to and keep me at my ideal weight.
o        That I have support, meetings, sponsorship and all the tools to stay focused.


 For today I will remember and count my blessings.

Monday, November 15, 2010

...On Planning Ahead

My mind is going a mile a minute.  My thoughts are all over the map, but as I try to make sense of them, one theme seems to be emerging:  planning ahead.

So, here’s the scoop.  I have exactly one week before I fly out for Thanksgiving.  During those seven days I have about three weeks of stuff that needs to be done.  Once I arrive at my destination, the real fun begins.  I say that literally as well as figuratively.  It’s going to be a blast…lots people, lots of excitement, lots of chaos, lots of celebrating, lots of eating out. I will be back in the exact same situation I have found myself in many times this last year: it’s just not practical to follow my recovery program and food plan with exactness when I travel.  Okay, I’ll be honest.  It’s not ‘practical’ to follow it at all!   Based on my previous patterns of behavior, I can expect about 12 hours before I feel inclined to give up completely. 

From my Thanksgiving party spot I hop on another plane and head for Portland to take care of 5 children for ten days at someone else’s house all by myself.  Question to self—I took care of 4 children for 10 days last month, did it at my house where I was more comfortable and familiar AND had my 27 year old daughter there the whole time to help…and barely survived.  Should I be worried????

Okay, I’ve outlined the scenario.  The problems are pretty obvious.  The question is, “What is the solution?”  Part of the answer seems to be “plan ahead”… AND…plan better than I have in the past.

I started to do that last night.  I made a careful list of everything I had to do between now and when I leave next Monday.  I then prioritized the list and started fitting tasks into available time slots.  One thing became clear.  The tasks and the time slots don’t match up.  My standard solution for this is to flip into overdrive, stay up all night and make it all happen.  Recipe for insanity.

My mind jumped back to something I mentioned in my blog a few days ago.  “God gives us exactly the amount of time we need to do his will.  (Not necessarily ours.)  Part of my planning process this week seems to be focusing on “calm efficiency” and not “frenzied hyper-activity”.   I’d better repeat that to myself: “calm efficiency” and not “frenzied hyper-activity”.   My sponsor pointed out this morning that steps 1, 2, and 3 are critical.  I am powerless to get everything done.  My life, left to my own devises, is unmanageable.  So, I just wrote in at the top of my to-do list a little reminder of steps 1-3:

I can’t.  (step 1)
God can.  (step 2)
I’ll let him.   (step 3)

At the end of the day, or at least at the end of the week I will be grateful for what got done and let the rest go.

[Just a little P.S:  the logical thing to do in a time crunch would be to bypass blogging.  I happen to have put a certain amount of time each day on my “must be done list” to spend on recovery…writing is part of my recovery activities, so I’ll keep this within the budgeted time.]

On to planning for next week—the party week.  One of my favorite quotes comes into play here, and I really need to share it—again.   (from Clayton Christensen)

“In many ways that was a small decision…In theory, surely I could have crossed over the line just that one time and then not done it again. But looking back on it, resisting the temptation whose logic was “in this extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s okay” has proven to be one of the most important decisions of my life. Why? My life has been one unending stream of extenuating circumstances. Had I crossed the line that one time, I would have done it over and over in the years that followed.”

“The lesson I learned ….is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on [extenuating circumstances…] you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.”

And so today I begin the process of planning my food for Thanksgiving week.  I am planning for exactly which restaurants I am going to and exactly what I am going to order.  I will plan what I need to pick up at the grocery store upon arrival and how I plan to manage my eating schedule.  Period.  No exceptions.  No extenuating circumstances.

That brings me to the third week:  babysitting in Portland.  I am sooo excited.  I love those kids!  They are some of the greatest joys in my life.  It is just that I am older and out of the routine. So a predictable pattern occurs.  I start out all enthusiastic and energetic.  By day two I reach a calm “normal” and by day three I am starting to wear down.  I slip into survival mode.  As soon as the kids are down, I fall into the love sac, exhausted.  I turn on the T.V. and drift off into oblivion until the alarm rings to start over the next day.

I was discussing this with my sponsor and she called me on something.  “T.V.?  But you don’t watch T.V. at home.  Why are you watching it there?”  Well, to escape stress and reality, of course.  (Okay, some of it was because they had cable and I didn’t.)  Escape is not the answer.  Rejuvenation is.  She gave me several assignments while I was there.

1)     No T.V.   Ouch….she knows how to hit where it hurts.

2)     Spend at least 30 minutes each day in prayer, reflection and meditation.  Why do all those crazy “big book people” keep harping on that?  How the heck are you supposed to find 30 minutes a day for extra reflection and meditation when I have to really work to make sure I get my scripture reading in for the day?  Oh…. is she implying that that would be more important than 30 minutes of Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit on T.V.?

3)     Keep up my gratitude journal.  “These are not restrictions being imposed on me to make my life miserable”.  “Thank you Heavenly Father that I have a plan that will help me be well!”

4)     Find a way to have some ‘away time’, even if that means hiring a babysitter for a few hours here and there.  Come on.  I’m wonder-woman.  I don’t need to do that.  I want to spend every minute I can with the kids.  Well, I will compromise.  I will plan one morning where I can go out and have some fun shopping time (my other favorite escape.)  We’ll have to see beyond that.

Of course, my planning ahead there also includes making sure that I have a frig full of the kind of food I need to eat right myself and still keep the children fed.  But if I make it through Thanksgiving week, I think I can actually manage that part of the Portland trip food-wise. 

My favorite strategy tends to be playing the “defensive” position.  I am great at hitting the balls as fast as they come at my face.  Taking the “offensive” position—initiating a plan recalculated to help me reach my goals—will be a bit of a twist for me.

For today, we’ll see how it goes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Love-Hate Relationship with Roller Coasters

I thought I would take a minute to discuss my love-hate relationship with roller-coaster rides….not the kind at the boardwalk, but the kind that exist in my head. 

Fact: I have a somewhat bipolar personality.  My highs are really high and my lows are really low. 

Fact:  Not everybody is like that. 

I started to recognize that for the first time when I got to know my good friend Joanne.  Joanne redefines “stable”.  She lives the most balanced, sane, stable life of anyone I know.  She has had plenty of major traumas and setbacks and yet she just continues to move forward at a steady pace with a remarkable degree of peace and serenity.  I, on the other hand, do not.  I continue to move forward, but there is no such phrase as “steady pace” in my vocabulary. I crawl, I run, I inch forward, I leap, I jump…and it all seems to be related to whether I am currently on the crest of the roller-coaster ride or in the trough.  My life has always seemed to be a roller-coaster ride emotionally.  Ironically, I am okay with that.

I have developed this under-lying philosophy of life over years.  Each of us is like a two-sided coin.  We have our “gift areas” and we have our “weaknesses” or character defects.  As it turns out, many times our weaknesses are inseparably linked to our gift areas.  Our mission in life—should be choose to accept it [not meaning to sound like a “Mission Impossible” show or anything] is capitalize on the “heads”—or gift areas while we minimize (manage, overcome, correct) the “tails”—or weaknesses.  Roughly translated, we use our gifts to make the world a better place and (in AA terms) do God’s will for us; over time we identify our character defects or weaknesses and work through or get them fixed.

So to link that idea to my own roller-coaster ride:  I am a “project person”.  One of my gift areas is the ability to take an idea, a need, a project, or what ever…  and be able to run with it start to finish, non-stop, no time for breathing until it is finished.  As a result, I have done a lot of things that a “normal” person wouldn’t/couldn’t do.  At least they couldn’t do in the same short time frame I can.  For years I just thought that was because I was smarter, more talented, or more energetic than the rest of the world.  I never realized it was a direct result of being slightly bi-polar. I say slightly because I realize that there is a broad range of bi-polar disorders and some are totally debilitating.  Mine isn’t debilitating.  It just gives me that super-human burst of adrenaline to do what ever I am dying to do and than crash on the back end.   When I am on the crest I am amazing and do amazing things.  When I am down in the trough, or depressed, I lay low and most people don’t ever see it.

I am grateful for that aspect of my personality and the ability it has given me to do various things in my life.  But, one of the most important aspects of my recovery process as I have worked the steps is to have been able to acknowledge the associated character defects and weaknesses.  It is not a noble thing to run your body ragged.  It is not good to justify sleep deprivation under the guise of doing something important.  It is not healthy to focus on one single project in your life at the expense of loosing balance in all other areas. One of the most important things I have learned in 90-day OA is the importance of weighing and measuring life just like I weigh and measure my food.  I have the concept.  I am still not very good at the application.

I have found over the last few years that this whole roller-coaster-run-on-adrenaline way of being has two very specific connections to my overeating.  

1)     I embark on projects when I am on the crest of a wave.  Naturally the crest doesn’t last.  This is because either emotionally I start the movement toward the depressed, low energy side, or because simple mortality—the need for rest and sleep—interferes with my ability to keep going.  However, part of my addiction is not being able to stop something until it is completed (another example of a gift area that is inseparably connected to a weakness).  Not being willing to reprioritize, I discovered a way to artificially keep myself on the crest of the wave longer than was normal.  I did this by using my drug of choice: food. 

Three a.m. in the morning.  Project not done.  I’m dead.  Five minute break with a big bowl of ice cream and some potato chips and I am good for at least another 2-3 hours. Simple plan. Insane plan. 

A surprising thing happened to me when I started OA.  My third meal of the day came at dinner time.  After dinner I would start into another long project, only my tank ran out of gas before the project was done.  On the program, I’m not allowed to put any more gas in the tank until the pre-set morning “fueling time”.  Without that artificial burst of energy I was giving myself I had no choice but to go to bed on the empty tank and start over in the morning when the gas station was open.  Shocking change for me!

2)     When something happens that is emotionally intense or worrisome my mind automatically catapults me into over-drive, or up to the crest of the wave.  The adrenaline kicks in and I have this restlessness compulsion to fix the problem.  Unfortunately, at that moment in time there is usually nothing that I can do right then and there.  I am powerless.  I am tense.  I am frustrated.  And so I deal with this unhealthy “crest” of emotional response by reaching for my favorite drug of choice:  food.  Since I can’t do anything else to alleviate my emotions, I eat my way through them until the numbing effect kicks in and I can drop from the crest of the wave to a more normal state of being—generally followed by a very depressed stage.

I thought I had completely overcome that tendency.  I don’t eat to avoid feeling life.  However, it hit me a few days ago that that instinct is stronger than ever right now.  I will be pacing around the house on the phone discussing something that is stressful or worrisome.  Without even think about it, I find myself in the kitchen with this compulsive desire to open the almond canister and grab a handful.  (Trust me—it would be the chips or something way less healthy if I had them in the house.)  I have had to make a conscious effort to say: “you are having an emotional response to something troubling.  Food won’t fix it.” 

Learning to manage highs and lows in a healthy way is challenging for me.  I don’t necessarily want to eliminate them.  They are part of who I am and what makes me—me!  I like the talents and abilities that are inseparably connected to those high.  I don’t like the suffering I feel when I am in a depressed state.  Thus, I really do have a love-hate relationship with my personal roller coaster ride. 

Just like a person with any other addiction, I can’t trust myself to “turn off” that project-mode thinking or keep balance in my life.  I have to acknowledge that my judgment in that area is non-existent.  Instead, I have to set arbitrary rules and accept input from my “higher power” and trusted friends as to what is really sane and manageable.  In effect, I do have to weigh and measure my life just like my food. 

For today, that works for me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

My friend and I planned a lunch outing.  Simple enough.  I wanted to go some place where we could have a good visit and I could enjoy some good, abstinent food.  Black Angus was my immediate first choice—a little pricy, but the filet mignon would be worth every penny of it.  I also had a back-up choice—my tried-and-true Hong Kong Buffet.  (It’s a Mongolian BBQ type place where I can have them cook the meat separately from the veggies and then weight them out at the table, add the exact amount of oil needed and have a textbook ‘weighed and measured’ meal.)  Just a note: filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes, fresh steamed broccoli and wedge salad is way better.

As I contemplated my plan there was the slightest little feeling of discomfort hanging over me—that little “this is your conscience speaking” feeling that you aren’t being rigorously honest with yourself.  So, knowing that I really wanted to work my program carefully I made a noble concession:  I was would skip the wedge salad—if I was being completely honest, it probably did had sugar in the dressing and way too much oil, even if it did give me a good 5 extra ounces of veggies. (If you call iceberg lettuce veggies.) Then I could either order some additional steamed veggies or take a ziplock of carrots to supplement my meal with.

I was feeling pretty noble about this monumental concession to give up the wedge salad and was secretly convinced that my sponsor would see this heroic sacrifice as a commitment to my program. Deep inside I knew that when it came down to it, there would probably be 8 oz. of garlic mashed potatoes and there was a low probability that I would discard the extra 4 oz.  Sadly enough, the first question she asked when I mentioned the restaurant was “are you going to take your scale?”  Drat.  How could I say “yes, but I’m not really going to use it for the potatoes and the extra 1 oz. of filet mignon.”  Of course, I was willing to use it to make sure that I got my full 12 oz. of veggies rather than getting short-changed.

I was momentarily pondering how to address this issue and still maintain my integrity when she threw out an even more disturbing bombshell:  “I don’t know of anywhere in the 90-day OA program where mashed potatoes out at a restaurant are okay.”  That was not what I wanted to hear.   It didn’t come as a total surprise.  My first sponsor didn’t allow mashed potatoes.  In fact, I almost dropped out of the program 16 months into it when she told me if I ate them at my daughter’s wedding dinner down in southern California I would get booted back to day 1 and said I should stop to buy some rice cakes instead.  Okay, that was unreasonable.  I didn’t eat the mashed potatoes, but I was really glad when my second sponsor said, “you just do the best you can.  We don’t always have control over what is put in our food.  They probably will have extra fat, so just go scant on your oil.”

Fast forward to the conversation with my current sponsor….here we are having the “mashed potato” discussion AGAIN.  Only she wasn’t being the dogmatic tyrant I saw my first sponsor being.  She was pointing out that in addition to the added fat that sometimes they do put some sugar in to “pop” out the flavor.  So the question arose in my mind, which I will from now on simply refer to as the “mashed potato” question:  On (my) program, do we eat, now and forever, food that is separate, easily “weighable”, and possible to identify all the ingredients, or so we eat that way in general, but not worry about it when we are out and just do the best that we can?  That is a much bigger question than it sounds.  In fact, it presents a proverbial ‘fork in the road’ in terms of how I pursue this recovery journey from the managing the food addiction standpoint.  The ‘I did the best that I could” at a restaurant opens up a real slippery slope.

In a flash, the mashed potato question went deeper than that.  It instantly went right back to our previous discussions on step 1:  have I really accepted the fact that I am a food addict and I can’t eat like other people without the disease reactivating sooner or later?  And for me, the question, does whether or not I eat garlic mashed potatoes have anything to do with it?

I could tell that the mashed potatoes had opened a can of worms that I was not ready to deal with just then.  So, I dropped the subject and said we would just go to Hong Kong Buffet.  As it was, we had a delightful, abstinent lunch and all was well….except for the fact that the “mashed potato” question has been haunting me ever since.  There seem to be two somewhat different approaches to the 90-day OA program.  One is a very tight, narrow line with a much more strict food plan—no exceptions.  The other is basically the same in that there is no flour or sugar, 3 weighed meals per day, but with a little more flexibility in eating out situations where we don’t have as much control over our food.  I see both of them as viable options and see people that I respect and admire working the program both ways.  However, I have to honestly admit that of those people I know who have lost a lot of weight and maintained it over along period of time, virtually all of them work the tighter program based on the premise that they are food addicts and will never  be able to eat like a normal person again.

Hum...I don't like where this discussion is taking me.

On Serenity...

I spent a lot of time figuring out "how to" blog and as a result, haven't spent the time actually writing.  But, my mind has been racing for the last few days and I have lots to write about.  Given that I am falling asleep in my chair, I will put that off for another time and share one thing someone said in a recent meeting:

"Serenity is not freedom from the storm; it is peace in the storm."

Given that storms are unavoidable, how to we maintain peace?

"God, grant me serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.(We only recite this twice every meeting....you might almost think it is important or something.) 

I would rather spend my energy trying to change the things I can't or shouldn't be changing, leaving too little time to actually work at changing the things I could or should change.  It is as if that somehow abdicates me from responsibility.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"After" Pictures

Having posted "before" pictures, I thought I would post some "after" pictures.   One of these grandma's is not like the other...and it isn't that they don't both adore the latest grandbaby!

















Life is really different now.  Enjoy everybody and everything so much more.

   


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The "BEFORE" Pictures....


I guess no recovery blog would be complete without "before" pictures.  These pictures would have been destroyed if I had ever gotten my hands on them in my "pre-OA" days.  Addicts don't like having to see evidence that they have any kind of a problem, and these pictures do hint at the fact that I did have at least some kind of a  weight problem.

This one was taken when my kids were young.  I enjoyed those years, but I was definitely limited in some of the things I could do with them because of my weight.




Luckily I have a naturally thin face (no...I'm serious...that is the last place I gain weight.)  I have to wonder what I would have looked like at 326 pounds if my face was naturally round or if that was the first place I gained weight.

Hum.....scarry thought.

I have to take a minute to mention that even if you have a less-than-perfect figure there are some very basic fashion tricks you can use to look thinner.  For instance-- I was 30 pounds less than my top weight when I was wearing the white T-shirt...and yet I look so much "skinnier" even at 326 pounds when I am wearing the black outfit.  It was clever little strategies like that that helped me kind of "be okay" with myself for all those years.



















 Take note of how happy I look in the "white T-shirt" picture above.... I was making 2,000 fresh, homemade chocolate chip cookies for girls camp.  Can you think of any better job to assign to a food addict that "having" to make that many chocolate chip cookies?  Do you have any idea how much dough you can sample and still have plenty to bake?

There are other strategies for dealing with being over weight.  For instance, did you know that if you always take time to do your hair in the morning, put on make up and wear nice clothes, people won't notice that you are overweight.  They will just see the beautiful you.  Wearing soft, flowing clothes rather than stiff, bulky clothes works too.  (not!)  
 
There is one final "before" picture I will post: Christmas morning.  Look how excited I am at my newest present--a bagel guillotine.... as if i needed a faster, more efficien way of getting bagels ready to put in my mouth!                       

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Do Showers and Food Have in Common?

I should have written this morning when I had all kinds of profound thoughts about recovery.  Now I am just tired and ready for bed.  However, I did have one thing to share:

I am addicted to showers.  I know--  T.M.I (too much information).  You see, I would be very happy if human beings didn't need to take showers.  They take up valuable time that I would rather spend doing something else.  But the point is we need to.  So pretty much every morning, whether I like it or not, I have to climb in.  Five minutes with some soap and warm water would do it and I could be on my way.  But then I have this little thought go through my mind--warm water feels SO good.  I will turn it a little warmer and stand under the shower head a little longer.  Another five minutes goes by and now I am really enjoying life.  I realize I have things to do and places to go, but heck--it feels SOOOO good that I make it a little warmer still  and stand for another five minutes.  By this time I am feeling guilty.  If I don't stop, there are going to be consequences.  I am going to be late.  All the hot water is going to be drained out of the tank.  Our water bill is going to skyrocket.   So what do I do?  Turn the heat up a fraction more and stand for another five minutes basking in the opportunity to be completely oblivious to anything but the water pouring over me. The longer I stay there, the harder it is to tear myself away.  By then the water is so hot that it is tortue to turn it off and face stepping back out into the icy cold, real world long enough to dry off and dress.  My skin is stinging, I'm running late and I am totally mad at myself for not stopping when I should have been done.

As I was showering this morning, I realized that is exactly how it is for me with food.  I would be fine if I didn't have to ever eat.  But I do.  Every day.  So I sit down for what I need--just the right amount of "soap and water" to do the job.  But if feels SO good I don't want to stop there.  So I 'turn it up' a bit and keep eating. If some is good, more is totally better.  Instead of stopping when I should, I want to keep on going and going.  In my pre-90-Day OA years I did just that....all the way up to 326 pounds.  Like the hot shower, I just couldn't seem to pull myself away no matter what the consequences.

For me, OA is like having an automatic timer on the shower that turns off after 5 minutes.  I don't have to want to get out, but I have to make myself do it anyway.  The scale and the clock tell me when to turn off my eating.  I don't have to want to stop--but the only hope for me is to do it anyway and get on with real life.  So far, it's working for me.  One day at a time.

How the heck did I get that name?

This has nothing to do with my recovery blog...but by way of explanation:  my daughter set up the blog for me.  So SHE picked the name LollyDolly out.  Where did it come from, you may ask? I was a long awaited daughter after a string of five boys in my family.  On the day I was born a song played on the radio that went, "Lollypop, Lollypop, oh Lolly, Lollypop" (or something like that...of course I was too young to remember.) Anyway, the name stuck and for first few years of my life I was called Lolly by everyone except my mom.  Today the only people who still call me Lolly, or more realistically, "Lol" for short are my six wonderful brothers. So there you have it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thoughts from Today's Meeting

I got up earlier than I wanted to this morning and went to another 90-day OA meeting.  I heard just what I needed to hear—several unrelated messages as well as an underlying theme that fit right on with my whole “mind-conversation” of yesterday. Recovery comes as we study, understand and apply the big book.  Permanent recovery from our “seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” requires our real completion of step 1:  acknowledgement that I am and ever will be an addict.  There is no easier, softer way.
 
I still don’t like that, but again, for TODAY I am willing to accept it and act on it.

Here are a couple of thoughts from friends and from the meeting today that stood out to me:
 
“Eat to nourish, not to numb”.
 
“Because of the kind of addict I am I can’t have any wiggle room in my program.  Fluffy (the easier, softer way) doesn’t work for me.  Fluffy can kill. We need to work the steps and study the Big Book.”
 
“I had to get a whole lot of ‘no’s’ before I finally got to the ‘yes’.”
 
“Knowledge is Power.”  (How lucky are we when we finally understand we are addicts and can’t control our problem…only then might we be ready to accept the solution.)
 
“The role of a sponsor:  to smash people’s delusions and excuses!”
 
“I am a tried and true food addict.  My life has been filled with efforts to prove that I am able to eat like a ‘normal person’.  The idea that someday I will be able to control and enjoy my overeating is my great obsession….. The delusion that we are like other people (and can eat what we want to) has to be annihilated!  (My legs are broken and they are not going to grow back.)”
 

At my sponsor’s request, I am going to try to wake up really early tomorrow and call into a panel meeting from back east on the “coffee shop”—(okay all you non-coffee-drinkers…ignore the name).  If I miss the live meeting I will definitely listen to the recording online later.
 
Sunday, November 7th  8:15 AM ET  (5:15 Pacific Time, 6:15 Mountain Time)
Abstinence Panel meeting. A panel of speakers will each share about their abstinence, and after they have finished there will be an opportunity for questions and answers. This meeting will be recorded.
 
As far as I can determine, the phone number and I.D. # for all their meetings is:
 
Conference Line
1-712-432-3900
Conf. ID: 897578
 
The “coffee shop” website is:  (I finally just put a direct link on my desktop to it so I could click to is easily and regularly.)
 
 
 
They have lots of Big Book resources (online copy, search engine, and all their daily big book study meetings recorded so you can listen as you need them.
 
 

Recovery Is Exhausting

I spent 1½ hours on the phone with my sponsor today. We covered some important information which left me feeling the need to write about it.  That automatically adds up to another 2-3 hours of time spent on trying to find recovery.  I see my day disappearing before my eyes and start to feel that panic-like feeling of impending doom as a result of not being able to get the other things done I need to get done.  On the flip side, I recognize I NEED recovery right now and the start up time for things is usually big.
 
I heard at a meeting, and have tried to internalize the fact that God gives us exactly the amount of time we need to do his will.  If we complete the day stressed and “unfinished” perhaps we used our time to do things on our own agenda (or someone else’s) rather than his. If we end the day feeling empty and unfulfilled perhaps we didn’t do something he wanted us to do.
 
First question of the day:  Is my feeling of “time” panic a result of my fear that I won’t be able to complete my agenda and my lack of willingness to accept that he might have another agenda.  Or, is it a warning sign that I need to, as quickly as possible, get my time/life in balance so that no single item takes up an inappropriate amount of time and energy?
 
We discussed a few things I was stressed out or emotionally upset about.  She requested I keep a “gratitude” journal.  This is something I have clearly recognized the need to do.  I need to keep the positive things in my life in perspective.  It helps me remember what I have.  It helps me remember why I continue, or want to continue, to do the things I do. 
 
Today we read “Foreword to the First Edition, Paragraphs 1 & 2. 
 
Things that jumped off the page at me:  precisely” how (we have recovered).  I realized that I have tried a lot of things to “beat” food, but 90-day OA and the 12 step program is the only thing that has worked.  Just like alcoholics find physical recovery by precisely one course (not touching alcohol) food addicts find physical recovery by putting strict fences around their food (writing a food plan in advance, reporting it to a sponsor and eating exactly three weighed and measured meal a day.) Likewise there is a precise way of finding emotional and spiritual recovery (the mind part) that needs to be followed.  “All roads” DO NOT eventually lead to recovery.
 
Sponsor’s input:  “Precisely how we have recovered”….   Recovered from what?  From (previous sentence) “the seemingly hopeless state of mind and body”.  We precisely follow the program for that specific purpose.  We don’t work the steps to find physical recovery.  We are abstinent as the precursor or first step to finding relief from our hopeless state of mind and body and eventual healing of the mind.  Then working the steps helps stay in a healthy state of mind and body long term.
 
Our conversation then turned to the first step. “We admitted we were powerless over food - that our lives had become unmanageable.”  She made the point that it is the only step that has to be worked perfectly.  She implied that she felt if someone relapses it is because they haven’t really worked step one perfectly.  I, on the other hand, felt that people can work step 1 and then relapse or fall back because human nature is such that we forget so fast.  If we quit working the steps and we “forget” (a gratitude journal is important) then step 1 quickly blurs and dissolves. 
 
She implied that she didn’t think that was a case if we have “really worked step 1”.  She referred to the Big Book, “Upon awakening…we consider our plans for the day…and ask God to direct our thinking.”  When we have really taken step one this is our instinct. 
 
I commented that we keep step 1 as long as we continue that practice, but no matter how strong our step 1 is, if we slip in doing those things that maintain recovery, we lose step 1.  We will have to explore the topic further at a later date.
 
Meanwhile, that is a somewhat irrelevant discussion to me right now because two things became clear to me and are immediately pertinent:
 
1)     I struggled with step 1 when I first started the program.  I have defined myself as competent, powerful, wise, capable, etc.  To be “powerless” is not in my description of myself.  To admit that my life is unmanageable implies that I am not capable of managing it…something that I don’t want to believe. So, after struggling with it for quite a while at the beginning of the program I came to admit that I was clearly a food addict.  It didn’t matter how powerful or competent I was in any other aspect of my life, the fact that I couldn’t stop eating made me powerless in that area and that aspect of life unmanageable.  I have gratefully accepted that knowledge over the years.  However, because the idea is so totally at odds with my core belief system (my “real” beliefs, not my “intellectual or hypothetical beliefs”) I have been content to leave step 1 at that.  I have no doubt I haven’t internalized it completely or in the way I have needed to even though I accept the concept as true.  There is a difference!
 
2)     I have looked at step 1 from a mostly spiritual perspective.  I can see that “I can’t; God can; I’ll let him”.  I realize I haven’t spent enough time internalizing or accepting the physical reality of my “disease” or addiction.  Using the analogy that an alcoholic is like a man with no legs—the legs don’t grow back.  You can’t jump out of bed and walk just because you recognize the problem.  You have to get a prosthesis or climb in a wheel chair.  I somehow have felt that the (shallow) spiritual recognition of my problem was enough and I haven’t really embraced the physical reality yet. 
 
I still hope that some day I will be fundamentally a different person—that I won’t be an addict and that I will be able to control it. I still chose to believe that I can “beat it”.  The practical part of step 1 involves accepting that I am permanently powerless over food… I am not going to “grow new legs”…I am not going to turn into someone who can eat wisely and with restraint once the fences are taken away. 
 
This idea will take some adjusting to.
 
We discussed the fact that I put some green beans into my mouth when I was cleaning up dinner last night.  She implied that was justification to go back to day 1, but didn’t tell me I had to go back. She asked me to pray about it and get back to her. 
 
My inclination was to just keep going.  I have actually been very careful in weighing all my food.  In fact, I am quite pleased with my diligence in following my plan. I felt that having talked to my sponsor about it was great—the rules are clear and I will commit to not doing that again.  Ironically (and this should have been a clue to me!) I had a similar experience with my previous sponsor where I had crossed a line and she left it up to me whether or not to go back to day 1.  I felt that it wouldn’t have accomplished any good except to exempt me from having to do service in my OA meetings.  Punitive measures didn’t seem to be nearly as effective as supportive and encouraging measures.
 
After contemplating the incident within the context of our discussion of Step 1, I started to feel like the real message here is that having snitched that green bean really reflects that fact that I haven’t truly accepted the reality of my situation—my resistance to accepting Step 1.  The fact that I feel I can pop beans into my mouth demonstrates that I really don’t believe I am a food addict and that compulsive eating will throw me back into a cycle of physical and mental craziness.  My willingness to be precise is, in a way, a token of my commitment to step 1. 
 
It is frustrating to realize that I just haven’t ‘gotten it’ for the last year or so and it is hard to believe I had slipped so far out of recovery without even being able to see it.
 
Final question of the day (or at least this writing session): what is it going to take for me to give up believing that I can find another way to ‘beat the system’ or eat what I want and just accept that now and forever I am a food addict and that can’t eat outside my strict fences with activating a hopeless state of mind and body.         
 
Answer:  I don’t know if I can, but I will be abstinent and willing for today.